Space: the pixelated frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Kestral. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new beacons, for its crew to get caught completely with their pants down by random encounters, to boldly flee from a fight once the FTL: Faster Than Light engines charge up…and quickly thereafter run out of fuel.
FTL: Faster Than Light is a pretty badass, hardcore game, a complex roguelike spaceship simulator/resource management game, featuring a real time combat system which can be paused whenever the player wishes, in order to either plan out their actions or internalize how utterly fucked their ship’s hull is.
The 2012 game was developed by a two-man team which then ballooned to a massive team of four – counting the writer and the soundtrack composer – that they could afford after a very successful Kickstarter campaign, and is definitely not the type of game one just picks up and plays, which tends to be something of a characteristic of small team indie games – in itself not a bad thing, but important to mention related to this title in particular.
Thankfully the developers of FTL were very aware of the level of complexity that they built into their game and as such offer an equally solid tutorial section which you absolutely, totally MUST play through in order to understand the various mechanics that the game employs.
Mind you, it’s nothing new, just very well implemented already-known mechanics and concepts revolving around resource management, balancing risk and reward and a very engaging combat system reminiscent of Final Fantasy 7 in as far as taking turns goes.
Setting and gameplay
You start with a three-man crew and a spaceship called The Kestral, interesting choice for the name of a spaceship but artistic license and all that. Thankfully you can easily customize the name of both the spaceship as well as that of your crew. I found this to be great not only because I could name my starship NCC 1701 but naming the crew something I could recognize made it easier and faster for me to assign them to their appropriate ship systems. It would’ve been somewhat easier if we could customize the color of our crew member’s uniforms as well, unfortunately that cannot be done.
The ship is made up of several main systems and three subsystems, all the main systems need to be powered in order to function and will usually function better if they are manned. Manning a system through the voyage will also upgrade that particular crew member’s related skill to that system, so that’s where specializing your crew members for each system and then remembering who does what quickly becomes important.
Through your exploring and most fights you’ll pick up scrap which you can then use to further upgrade your ships systems, subsystems and reactor, but you’re always on the clock because you’re actually on the run from the nasty Rebellion. You’re always a few turns in front of them but the more time you spend in one particular sector exploring the various beacons, the closer they’ll get to you.
On the other hand, bolting towards the Exit beacon isn’t an ideal strategy either since the encounters will become steadily more difficult as you advance through the various sectors.
The fights can take many forms thanks to a diverse array of weapons and approaches that can be taken both by you as well as your enemies. The danger of fire on the ship is always present – especially at a beacon close to a star – but thankfully you can actually open the airlocks to let all the air go out of the ship and extinguish the fires that way, not always advisable but a great option to have. There’s also the possibility of teleporting enemies or bombs to your ship and that’s when your crew has to get all up close and personal with them, whilst at the same time making sure to not get too pummeled by the enemy ship. Of course you can do the same as well, it all depends on how you choose to upgrade and outfit your ship.
Now for the hardcore part I mentioned at the start of the article, well the game has only one save slot. Not only that but it is a Save&Quit button, so you save and then the game closes. Now you might think, that’s not so bad, many of us usually play a game with just one save slot, so as to artificially increase the difficulty of a game, well FTL takes it a step further and doesn’t allow you to ever return to that exact save if you’ve already reloaded and played a few turns. So quitting the game during an unsuccessful encounter hoping that you can return to the earlier and safer save will only result in bitter tears of permadeath.
Graphics and soundtrack
As far as the graphics go, this is after all a two-man team effort so the graphics are proportionally lackluster, however the pixel sprite approach works great because it’s there just to enclose the very solid and very complex gameplay. It’s function only.
The soundtrack on the other hand does a great job at immersing you into the artificial atmosphere of your starship, it’s a pleasure to listen to during playtime and it’s actually relaxing to listen in your spare time as well.
Rest assured that the game is much more complex than what I described ’till now, this is more of a synopsis of what the game is about and how it works but I’ll leave all of those things for you to discover on your own because FTL: Faster Than Light is definitely worth both your time and money.
Don’t hesitate to leave me a comment telling me what you thought of FTL: Faster Than Light, in case you’ve already played it, or on the other hand, if you’re going to check it out now.
Seeya next time, again in the past.
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